Archive for May, 2012

But do they even know what evolution is?

May 31, 2012 | By | 5 Replies More
But do they even know what evolution is?

15 Miss USA contestants demonstrate that they don’t know enough to know that they don’t know enough. In other words, these beautiful contestants are beautifully demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger cognitive effect:

The proper answer from each of these contestants should have been “I can’t answer that question, because I don’t understand the scientific theory of evolution. Maybe I should go read a few good books, on evolution. Then I’ll let you know whether I am competent to answer that question.” To answer like this, though, is not the American way. When you are prepared with make-up and the cameras come on, you tend to wing it in such a way to please the majority of your audience. This is what beauty contestants and politicians have in common.

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The real lesson of Facebook

May 31, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
The real lesson of Facebook

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone sharply questions the integrity of the stock market:

Virtually every week now we see stories like this that hint at a kind of two-tiered market system – in which most of the real action takes place inside an unregulated black-box network of connected insiders who don’t disclose their relationships or their interests, while everyone else, i.e. the regular suckers, live in the more tightly-policed world of prospectuses and quarterly reporting and so on. . . . Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous “preferred investors,” can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers.

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Money gushing

May 31, 2012 | By | 14 Replies More
Money gushing

How much money will be opposing Barack Obama? Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone puts it into perspective:

“Koch brothers alone are planning to spend more $$ than McCain’s entire 2008 presidential budget.”

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Definition of “militant”

May 30, 2012 | By | 6 Replies More
Definition of “militant”

Glenn Greenwald discusses the definition of “militant” with Amy Goodman:

Well we, of course don’t imply that the President of the United States believes that he has the power to order people to killed — assassinated — in total secrecy, without any due process, without transparency or oversight of any kind. I really do believe it’s literally the most radical power that a government and a President can seize, and yet the Obama administration has seized this power and exercised it aggressively with very little controversy. What the New York Times article does is it adds some important, though very disturbing details. Probably the most disturbing of which is that one of the reasons why the Obama administration runs around claiming that the casualties of civilians are so low from their drone attacks, which everyone knows is false, is because they have redefined what a militant is. A militant in the eyes of the Obama administration formally means any male of fighting age, presumably 18 to 40, who is in a strike zone of a missile. So, if the U.S. shoots a missile or detonates a bomb by drone or aircraft and kills eight or a dozen or two dozen people without even knowing whom they have killed or anything about them, they will immediately label any male of a certain age a militant by virtue of their proximity to that scene.

What the New York Times article said, was that the rationale for this is that they believe that anybody who is even near a terrorist or any terrorist activity is “Probably up to no good.” Ironically, that is, as Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News pointed out, the exact phrase that George Zimmerman used when describing Trayvon Martin to the 9-1-1 call, that he must be up to no good. The sort of suspicion, that even though we don’t know anything about somebody, the mere happenstance of where they are or what they’re doing entitles us not just to harbor a suspicion about them, but to kill them. And it is amazing that American media outlets continue to use the word “militant” to describe people are killed by American drones without knowing their identity, even though we now know that the Obama administration uses that word in a incredibly deceitful and propagandistic way. And the fact that Obama, himself, is sitting at the top of this pyramid, making decisions about life and death — issuing death sentences without a shred of oversight or transparency, really ought to be provoking widespread outrage, and yet with the exception of a few circles and factions it really isn’t.

. . . he’s has been embracing these radical theories of executive power that even George Bush’s former former CIA and NSA chief General Michael Haden has lavishly praised and other Bush officials are over the moon about in terms of President Obama endorsing them. So, we know his policies have been extremist and radical, but here you have one of the most controversial things that a president can do — ordering an American citizen assassinated by the CIA in total secrecy with no due process, never been charged with a crime, even though they could have charged him if they really had evidence as they claim, that he was guilty of plotting terrorist attacks. Instead of charging him, they simply secretly ordered his assassination, and it turns out there was no struggling in terms of the difficult constitutional and ethical and legal issues this a obviously presents. According to the President’s own aides, they’re boasting to the New York Times that he has declared that this was an “Easy” decision, not anything that he struggled with, something that he made quite easily. So, we find out that not only is exercising this radical power, he is not even having any struggles with conscience or constitutional questions or legal or intellectual quandaries about it. It’s something that his national-security adviser, Tom Donilon, also bragged to the New York Times about. It shows how “Comfortable” he is using force, even against American citizens. That I think reflects really on the type of person that occupies the Oval Office.

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A few words about traditional marriage

May 30, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
A few words about traditional marriage

Jay Michaelson delivers some inconvenient news to those who claim that marriage has always meant one man committed to one woman:

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

I would add that even in modern times, “marriage” means serial monogamy–being committed for life to one special person, until you get tired of that person and then move on to being committed to a different person forever.

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George Orwell quotes

May 30, 2012 | By | Reply More
George Orwell quotes

I decided to spend an hour collecting some of my favorite quotes of George Orwell. It’s amazing how timeless he was, which is another way of saying that he understood human beings extremely well. Here are some of his quotes:

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.

Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it; consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning.

Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.

Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.

One cannot really be a Catholic and grown up.

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.

Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet régime, or any other régime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.

The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.

The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded.

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.
Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.
War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

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Wacky Conspiracy

May 30, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
Wacky Conspiracy

Sure, the Birthers and Truthers are ramping up their positions this election year. But how about this?

Step one: Note an uptick in gun violence as the weather warms up (as recently has been reported in places like Seattle).

Step Two: Encourage the “Liberal Media” like Fox News and CNN to run with the statistical spike, rolling out regular stories about gun violence.

Step Three: Sit back as the predictable political posturing by liberal politicians results in writing moderate gun control legislation.

Step Four: Respond in the early fall with a fervent campaign push saying, “See? We Told you Obama is after your guns!”

Result: Getting out the conservative voters who otherwise wouldn’t bother voting for that Mormon not-conservative-enough Romney.

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Modern political money

May 30, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Modern political money

From Rachel Maddow’s blog:

[T]he playing field has changed in fundamental ways. In the traditional model, we’d see two major-party candidates, each backed by their respective national party. In 2012, President Obama’s campaign team will effectively have two extremely well-financed opponents: Mitt Romney and the RNC, which are projected to raise at least $800 million, as well as a $1 billion outside attack operation.

Obama, in other words, is going to face a far-right wall of at least $1.8 billion between now and Election Day. To say this is without precedent in a major democracy is a dramatic understatement.

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Inside Iran

May 29, 2012 | By | Reply More
Inside Iran

What do you know about Iran? Here is a series of photos from The Atlantic that will like expand your horizons.

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